With Breanne Deppisch and Joanie Greve.

THE BIG IDEA: He’s tan, he’s rested and he’s ready.

For all intents and purposes, Mitt Romney announced Thursday that he will run for Senate in Utah. He tweeted that he’s going to formally reveal his plans on Feb. 15 and linked to a website that encourages people to “join team Mitt.”

Matthew Waldrip is expected to manage the campaign and several alumni from his 2012 presidential effort will play roles, including finance director Spencer Zwick, per Robert Costa.

Most everyone in Utah agrees that Romney should be a shoo-in, easily securing the Republican nomination and coasting to victory in the general election.

A favorite parlor game on the Washington cocktail party circuit right now is speculating about how much of a thorn he’ll be in President Trump’s side. Romney refused to vote for him in 2016, repeatedly calling him a “fraud” and suggesting that he wrote in his wife Ann’s name. Immediately after the election, though, the former governor sought to make nice with Trump and interviewed to become secretary of state. The president-elect, who prizes loyalty above all, never seriously considered Romney but enjoyed watching him kowtow.

Will the man who saved the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City now be the white knight that some Republicans think they need to save their party in 2018? With John McCain battling brain cancer, plus the retirements of Bob Corker and Jeff Flake, there is an impending vacuum of moral leadership inside the GOP conference. Romney could help fill it.

At 70, Romney is not planning to become a congressional lifer. It’s plausible he’d serve one term and then ride into the sunset like a latter-day Cincinnatus. That, and the fact that he’d probably be the richest member of the Senate, might liberate him to play the part of elder statesman who puts country before party.

Romney would enter Congress with a bigger megaphone than any freshman since Hillary Clinton was elected to the Senate in 2000 after eight years as first lady. Other intriguing precedents include former president John Quincy Adams winning a House seat in 1830 and Hubert H. Humphrey getting elected back to the Senate from Minnesota in 1970 after serving as Lyndon Johnson’s vice president and losing the 1968 election. (Humphrey served until his death in 1978.)

But make no mistake: Mitt remains a partisan Republican. His niece chairs the Republican National Committee. His father was Richard Nixon’s housing secretary after serving as governor of Michigan. He will never be part of “The Resistance.” His desire to be an effective lawmaker could make him hesitant to be the voice of the Never Trump movement. More often than not, Romney would probably support Trump and vote to advance his priorities — just as Corker, Flake and McCain have in this Congress.

That said, he could still break with the president in significant ways. The Russia investigation comes to mind, as does Trump’s refusal to implement the sanctions on Moscow that Congress passed almost unanimously. Romney spoke out against Roy Moore and said he believed the women accusing him of sexual misconduct after Trump rallied to Moore’s defense in the Alabama special election.

Romney also has the benefit of being far more popular than Trump in Utah. The president only garnered 45 percent of the vote in 2016, his worst showing in any state that he carried. Many Mormons remain uneasy with what they perceive as Trump’s lax morals. A poll in December pegged Romney’s favorable rating at 69 percent.

Presuming he wins, there will be incessant speculation that Romney might challenge Trump in 2020 for the GOP nomination. Even if he denies interest, almost everything Romney does in the Capitol would be viewed through this prism: Is he trying to thread the needle to lay the groundwork for a third presidential bid?

Don’t forget: Romney has a storied history of shifting his position on major issues to fit the moment. Studying the arc of his political career makes it sometimes difficult to decipher his core convictions. After all, Mitt has run for Senate before. Challenging the liberal lion Ted Kennedy in Massachusetts in 1994, he declared: “Look, I was an independent during the time of Reagan-Bush. I'm not trying to take us back to Reagan-Bush.” He continued to evolve ahead of his successful run for governor in 2002, when he described himself as “a moderate” with “progressive views.” He positioned himself differently in 2012 than he did in 2008.

But most of his flip-flops look quaint compared to Trump’s, and his “gaffes” seem tame in the Trump era. Even the granddaddy of them all, his caught-on-hidden-camera complaint that 47 percent of Americans would never vote for him because they depend on government largesse, looks minor compared to some of what Trump has said.

And Romney was downright prescient when he identified Russia as the biggest geopolitical threat facing the United States in 2012. Barack Obama mocked him. “The 1980s are now calling to ask for their foreign policy back,” he said during one of the debates. “The Cold War has been over for 20 years.” I bet the former president would love to take that line back.

-- Has Mitt’s moment passed? Ironically, around the same time Romney signaled his impending campaign announcement, the president was getting a rock star’s welcome at the GOP congressional retreat in West Virginia.

Trump exclaimed that retiring Sen. Orrin Hatch, whose seat Romney is trying to fill, recently told him that he is “the greatest president in the history of our country.”

“And I said, ‘Does that include Lincoln and Washington?’ And he said, ‘Yes.’ And I said, ‘I love this guy,’” recounted Trump, dispensing with a little of the humility that made his State of the Union so successful on Tuesday night.

A Hatch spokesman clarified that the senator has said he “can be” the greatest president ever, not that he “is.”

Putting aside the question of whether Trump “is” or “can be” the greatest president ever, the gathering in White Sulphur Springs has shown the degree to which most GOP lawmakers have become strong defenders of the administration over the past year. “Even those Republicans who hesitate to embrace Trump have come to grips with the fact that voters chose this mode of operation — and no longer expect him to change course,” Paul Kane reports from the Greenbrier

THROWBACK THURSDAY:

-- In addition to Mitt’s moves, Tim Pawlenty — who also sought the presidency in 2012 — took a big step yesterday toward a comeback bid for governor of Minnesota. He invited a group of major donors and other GOP movers and shakers to come meet with him in Minneapolis on Feb. 12, and his longtime adviser Brian McClung confirmed to MPR’s Brian Bakst that he’s actively considering it.

Pawlenty decided last month not to run against Tina Smith, who was appointed to replace Al Franken when he resigned, despite strong encouragement from national Republicans. Seeking federal office would have required him to field many more questions about Trump than if he runs for a state office, where he can emphasize parochial concerns.

A few of his friends and former aides have now explained his theory of the case to me, but I will admit to remaining baffled by why he’d want to give up a seven-figure salary as the head of the Financial Services Roundtable — a trade association that lobbies for banks and insurance companies — to run in this environment in a blue state as a Republican.

Romney and McCain both seriously considered picking Pawlenty as their running mate. In the aughts, he was the avatar of what he called Sam’s Club Republicanism. That feels like an eternity ago. It remains to be seen how he’ll position himself in 2018.

-- Another blast from the past: Bobby Jindal penned an important op-ed in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal about the GOP’s post-Trump future. The former Louisiana governor, so ubiquitous for so many years, has kept a low profile since his failed 2016 presidential campaign, when he blasted Trump as a “narcissist,” an “egomaniac” and “a carnival act.”

While Pawlenty positioned himself as a mainstream, suburban soccer dad, Jindal astutely recognized the yearning on the right — years before Trump — for anti-elite populism. But the former Rhodes Scholar was too Ivy League and never quite angry enough for the base whose approval he sought. It was the right message for the moment, but he wasn’t the right vessel.

Five years ago this week, at the first meeting of the Republican National Committee after the 2012 election, Jindal delivered a speech in Charlotte calling on the GOP to stop being the “stupid party.” Just as many Republicans would later embrace the “deplorable” moniker as a badge of honor, a surprising number of conservatives thought that the Brown-educated, Indian-American governor was talking about them when he said “stupid.” It was a grave miscalculation that made it hard to get liftoff in 2016.

It’s unclear what his long-term ambition is here, but Jindal — just 46-years-old — appears to be recalibrating for a second act. These four paragraphs from his WSJ op-ed offer several clues:

“Contrary to conventional wisdom, the real danger with Mr. Trump is that he may end up changing little. … Mr. Trump is a man, not a movement; he embodies executive strength, not a philosophy. When his time in office is up, he may leave behind millions of frustrated, voiceless people facing a status quo government and two limp, self-serving political parties eager to return to what they were, which wasn’t much …

“Trump voters elected a president, causing them to think they had won the revolution. They hadn’t. Their power is one man, and he has an expiration date. It’s not clear that the GOP, as a party, has learned anything. The Republican elite’s desire for self-preservation, along with its recognition of the obvious populist conservative wave, has resulted in a temporary truce within the party. But the GOP will not be a populist conservative party as long as the current congressional leadership remains in place.

Mr. Trump has both a high floor and a low ceiling, and it is up to the Republican Party to figure out how to maintain the former while shattering the latter. One clue is to remember Bob Dole’s admonition in 1996 that anyone who believes ‘that we are not open to citizens of every race and religion’ could find the exits, ‘which are clearly marked.’

The moment immediately after Trump is the one that counts. It is possible that it took him to broaden us and that our subsequent existence will depend on his disappearance. … We need to take over and reinvent the GOP. Mr. Trump won’t be the man to do it. We should create a more populist — Trumpian—bottom-up GOP that loves freedom and flies the biggest American flag in history, shouting that American values and institutions are better than everybody else’s and essential to the future.”

-- Something interesting is happening in Mississippi: Mitch McConnell and Trump are on the same side of what had been shaping up to be one of the biggest battles this year in the GOP civil war. After the calamity of Alabama, and the marginalization of former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, the Senate majority leader and the president are working together to coronate someone who could replace the ailing Sen. Thad Cochran if he resigns from office.

McConnell has asked Gov. Phil Bryant to appoint himself if Cochran steps down, and Trump has endorsed the plan. “In particular, a self-appointment by Bryant would complicate the ambitions of state senator and attorney Chris McDaniel, a foe of McConnell, who ran a failed primary campaign against Cochran in 2014, and has been preparing for another run,” Michael Scherer, Sean Sullivan and Josh Dawsey scooped overnight. “McConnell and Bryant dined together Tuesday before the State of the Union, which Bryant attended as McConnell’s guest. The odds that Bryant will decide to take McConnell up on the suggestion are slim, said a Mississippi Republican strategist familiar with the governor’s thinking.”

There are several other options that McConnell and Trump have discussed if Bryant declines.

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WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:

-- Breitbart obtained an audio recording of Trump’s appearance at the RNC winter meeting last night, in which he bragged about the results of his cognitive test and mocked 2016 presidential candidate Evan McMullin: “[T]he White House press pool was escorted out after he derided them as ‘haters.’ … [Trump] delighted the crowd by discussing the details of his cognitive exam at Walter Reed Military Hospital. He boasted that he got a ‘30-for-30’ score. ‘You know that’s risky. If I take it, it doesn’t come out so good, they don’t get rid of it,’ Trump said about the test. … Later in the test, he explained, he had to repeat disassociated words as the test administrators asked him to repeat them at different points in the test. ‘Let me tell you, those last ten questions are hard,’ he said, and added. ‘There aren’t a lot of people that can do that.’ …

“He also spoke about the state of the Republican party, praising the great talent and reliving election night stories despite reports from the ‘fake news’ that suggested that traditionally red states were in play. ‘Anyone watching CNN? Fake news. Fake. Fake. Fake. They say Ohio is in play,’ Trump said. He also mocked protest candidate Evan McMullin in Utah, without mentioning his name. ‘Remember when they had that clown come out? That’s the guy that nobody ever heard of, supposed to be beating me?’ he asked. ‘Hillary beat him in Utah.’”

GET SMART FAST:​​

  1. A federal judge struck down Florida’s system for disenfranchising formerly incarcerated citizens. U.S. District Judge Mark Walker said the state's “scheme” unfairly violates its citizens constitutional rights by unfairly relying on the personal backing of Gov. Rick Scott (R) to restore a felon's voting rights. Walker called the state's argument in the case “nonsensical.” (Tampa Bay Times)
  2. Mary Beth Cahill has been named the interim CEO of the Democratic National Committee. The former campaign manager for then-presidential candidate John Kerry will oversee the organization as Chairman Tom Perez searches for a more permanent replacement for Jess O’Connell, who stepped down earlier this week. (Politico)

  3. A 12-year-old girl was taken into custody in connection to the shooting of two students at a Los Angeles middle school. A 15-year-old boy remains in critical condition, while a 15-year-old girl is said to be in fair condition. Another three students were injured — although not shot — in the incident. (Susan Svrluga)
  4. Investigators reexamining the 1981 drowning death of actress Natalie Wood described her then-husband, fellow actor Robert Wagner, as a “person of interest.” Wood’s death after she disappeared from her family yacht was originally ruled an accidental drowning, but the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department reopened the case in 2011. (CBS News)
  5. Mark Zuckerberg announced Facebook users spent 50 million fewer hours on the platform last quarter after it altered its news feed to feature fewer viral videos. “Our focus in 2018 is making sure Facebook isn't just fun, but also good for people's well-being and for society,” the Facebook founder wrote in a post.
  6. A Massachusetts man was charged with marriage fraud after marrying six undocumented African women to help them gain legal status. Peter Hicks first raised authorities’ suspicion while trying to collect immigration benefits for one of his wives in 2009. (Kristine Phillips)
  7. One of the teens involved in the 2014 “Slender Man” stabbing was committed to 40 years in a mental hospital. Morgan Geyser stabbed her classmate Payton Leutner 19 times in the hopes of impressing “Slender Man,” a mythical online character. (Marwa Eltagouri)
  8. Figure skater Mirai Nagasu is striving to become the first American woman to complete an Olympic triple axel. Nagasu, like her two American teammates, is not expected to win a medal, but the triple axel could still make her Winter Games appearance historic. (Chelsea Janes)

THERE’S A BEAR IN THE WOODS:

-- The memo drafted by House Intelligence Committee Republicans alleging surveillance abuses by the FBI in its pursuit of a secret court order to monitor a former Trump campaign aide is expected to go public today — with Trump's approval. Democrats and the intelligence community — including the Trump-appointed FBI Director Christopher Wray — have argued fiercely against its release, arguing the memo contains classified information they say will compromise intelligence sources and gathering methods.

Carol D. Leonnig, Josh Dawsey, Ellen Nakashima and Karoun Demirjian report: “Trump has read the GOP memo, the administration officials said, and once he formally approves its release, the White House will transmit it back to the House Intelligence Committee, which has the authority to make it public. … Early Thursday, a senior White House official said the administration was likely to make redactions in response to those concerns. Hours later, however, the White House appeared to change course, saying the memo was likely to be released without redactions.”

-- Trump decided the memo should be released before even reading it as he watched cable news segments. From Philip Rucker, Ashley Parker and Josh Dawsey: “Trump was only vaguely aware of [the memo] when two House conservatives brought it to his attention in a Jan. 18 phone call. The conversation piqued Trump’s interest. Over the next two weeks, according to interviews with eight senior administration officials and other advisers to the president, he tuned in to cable television segments about the memo. He talked to friends and advisers about it. And, before he had even read it, Trump became absolutely convinced of one thing: The memo needed to come out.”

-- “The president did not actually see the memo … until Wednesday afternoon, following the [Intelligence] committee’s Monday vote to initiate its release,” Phil, Ashley and Josh report. “White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly marched the document into the Oval Office so that he and Trump could briefly discuss it before the president’s meeting with regional reporters. The president was then left alone to read the memo in its entirety. A White House official said Kelly returned a few hours later and shared with the president his opinion: that releasing the memo would not risk national security but that the document was not as compelling as some of its advocates had promised Trump.”

-- Trump consulted with Fox News host Sean Hannity, who encouraged releasing the memo without delay. The Daily Beast’s Lachlan Markay and Asawin Suebsaeng report: “According to three sources with knowledge of their conversations, Trump has been in regular contact with Hannity over the phone in recent weeks[.] … Hannity has gone to the wall to push for the public release of the memo[.] … Sources say Hannity’s persistent advocacy reinforced Trump’s already growing determination to get that memo into the public realm[.] … On these calls, Trump has directly referenced specific recent Hannity segments related to #ReleaseTheMemo[.]

-- There is growing fear in the West Wing that the memo will be a “dud.” Axios’s Jonathan Swan reports: “Inside the Trump administration, sources who've been briefed on the Nunes memo expect it will be underwhelming and not the ‘slam dunk’ document it's been hyped up to be. … [T]here are a number of people in the White House who are fairly underwhelmed, and there's internal anxiety about whether it's worth angering the FBI director and intelligence community by releasing this information.”

-- Trump has reiterated in recent phone calls that he believes the memo will paint the FBI in a partisan light and make it easier to discredit the Russia investigation, according to CNN.

-- The White House is worried the memo’s release may motivate Wray to quit, just six months into the job. CNN’s Dana Bash, Jeff Zeleny and Evan Perez report: “Wray has made clear he is frustrated that [Trump] picked him to lead the FBI after he fired FBI Director James Comey in May, yet his advice on the Nunes memo is being disregarded and cast as part of the purported partisan leadership of the FBI, according to a senior law enforcement official. Wray's stance is ‘raising hell,’ one source familiar with the matter said. Wray has not directly threatened to resign after clashing with Trump over the possible release of the memo, the source added, because that is not his style of dealing with conflict.”

-- The president of the FBI Agents Association issued a statement supporting Wray, saying the group appreciates his “standing shoulder to shoulder with the men and women of the FBI as we work together to protect our country from criminal and national security threats.” (Carol D. Leonnig, Josh Dawsey, Ellen Nakashima and Karoun Demirjian)

-- Trump took a shot at the leaders of the FBI and the Justice Department in a tweet this morning:

He also promoted the memo’s key assertion:

-- Former FBI director James Comey weighed in on Twitter yesterday:

-- Democratic leaders Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer are calling for the removal of Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), whose office wrote the memo, as chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. Nunes's committee is spearheading the House probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election and any ties to Trump campaign officials. 

Per Carol, Josh, Ellen and Karoun: “Nunes had turned the panel’s proceedings into a ‘charade’ and a ‘coverup campaign . . . to hide the truth about the Trump-Russia scandal,’ [Pelosi] wrote in a letter to [Paul Ryan (R-Wis.)]. Ryan defended Nunes, accusing Democrats of trying to ‘sidetrack us with some political game’ and stressing that the memo’s scrutiny of the FBI ‘does not implicate’ [special counsel Robert] Mueller or [Deputy Attorney General Rod] Rosenstein. … Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), appearing with Ryan, also told reporters he thinks Nunes is ‘handling this just right.’”

-- “But to the president’s most ardent supporters, Mr. Nunes is a hero,” note the New York Times’s Sheryl Gay Stolberg and Matthew Rosenberg. “‘The vindication of Devin Nunes continues,’ Representative Matt Gaetz, Republican of Florida, said in an interview Thursday. Noting that the House Ethics Committee recently cleared Mr. Nunes of allegations he mishandled classified information, Mr. Gaetz went on: ‘He’ll be even more vindicated as the public learns more about the abuses at the F.B.I. and the Department of Justice.’ … Mr. Nunes, 44, has made an unlikely transition from a leadership loyalist who once heaped scorn on Republican hard-liners to one of the hard-liners’ idols.”

-- Another leading Republican, Sen. John Thune (S.D.), argued Nunes should proceed with more caution. The Hill’s Alexander Bolton reports: “Thune, speaking to reporters at [the] Republican retreat, said that [Nunes] should first share the memo with Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.) before releasing it publicly, noting that Burr has been unable to obtain the document. … Thune also said that Nunes should heed the concerns of [Wray] about divulging information about the agency’s sources and methods. ‘They have to take into consideration what the FBI is saying, and if there are things that need to be redacted, I think they need to pay careful attention to what our folks who protect us have to say about how this bears on our national security,’ he said.”

-- Further damage to Nunes’s case: The memo reportedly argues that intelligence officials began surveilling Trump campaign adviser Carter Page based on ex-British intelligence officer Christopher Steele’s dossier. But, according to the Wall Street Journal, Page was on the FBI’s radar years before the 2016 campaign. Rebecca Ballhaus and Byron Tau report: “In January 2013, Mr. Page was in New York at an Asia Society event on China and energy development, when he met Victor Podobnyy, a junior attaché at the Russian consulate in New York City who was in the audience, Mr. Page told the House Intelligence Committee last fall. … That June, three years before the 2016 presidential campaign and the creation of the dossier, Mr. Page had his first known brush with a U.S. counterintelligence official. He was interviewed by FBI counterintelligence agent Gregory Monaghan and another FBI agent, who were investigating whether Mr. Podobnyy was a Russian intelligence agent[.] In 2015, Mr. Podobnyy was charged with posing as a U.N. attaché under diplomatic cover while trying to recruit Mr. Page as a Russian intelligence source."

-- Three of Rick Gates’s lawyers have asked to be removed as his defense counsels. Robert Mueller's team indicted Gates — along with his former business partner and ex-Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort — on fraud and money laundering charges. Spencer S. Hsu reports: “In a court filing Thursday, Gates attorneys Shanlon Wu of Washington and Walter Mack and Annemarie McAvoy of New York moved to withdraw as counsel for reasons they said they would file shortly under seal. Asked to comment, Wu replied in an email, ‘Not at this time — we are still under the Court’s gag order.’ The shift in defense counsel would be at least the third for Gates, 45, since he and his former employer, [Manafort] . . . were indicted Oct. 30 on fraud, conspiracy and money laundering[.]”

-- At least two lawyers representing Trump associates in the Russia probe suspect Mueller may set a new precedent by indicting Trump. Politico’s Darren Samuelsohn reports: “While many legal experts contend that Mueller lacks the standing to bring criminal charges against Trump, at least two attorneys working with clients swept up in the Russia probe [said] they consider it possible that Mueller could indict the president for obstruction of justice. Neither attorney claimed to have specific knowledge of Mueller’s plans. Both based their opinions on their understanding of the law; one also cited his interactions with the special counsel’s team, whose interviews have recently examined whether Trump tried to derail the probe into his campaign’s Russia ties.”

TRUMP’S AGENDA:

-- A Consumer Financial Protection Bureau unit overseeing fair-lending practices was stripped of its enforcement powers as part of Mick Mulvaney's push to narrow the scope of the bureau's activities. Renae Merle reports: The Office of Fair Lending and Equal Opportunity “previously used its powers to force payouts in several prominent cases, including settlements from lenders it alleged had systematically charged minorities higher interest rates than they had for whites. That unit now will move inside the office of the director, where staffers will be focused on ‘advocacy, coordination and education,’ according to an email Mulvaney sent them this week. They will no longer have responsibility for enforcement and day-to-day oversight of companies, he wrote.”

-- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is dramatically scaling back its epidemic prevention activities in 39 of 49 countries because money is running out. Lena H. Sun reports: “Most of the funding comes from a one-time, five-year emergency package that Congress approved to respond to the 2014 Ebola epidemic in West Africa. … That money is slated to run out by September 2019. Despite statements from President Trump and senior administration officials affirming the importance of controlling outbreaks, officials and global infectious-disease experts are not anticipating that the administration will budget additional resources.”

-- CDC employees expressed relief at the return of Anne Schuchat as acting director, with many calling for her permanent installation. Schuchat took over after then-Director Brenda Fitzgerald was forced to resign following controversy over financial conflicts of interest — including purchasing tobacco stock after she was installed. Lena reports: “By Thursday afternoon, 40 comments had been posted anonymously on the internal announcements board applauding [Schuchat's] return and suggesting that her bosses at the Health and Human Services Department should just make her the permanent director.  … A longtime federal employee wrote, … ‘I feel it is time to go back to having a career CDC professional as director rather than having this position be so politicized.’”

-- The State Department's third-highest-ranking official announced his retirement, once again upending a department already beset by low employee morale in the Trump administration. Carol Morello reports: “Thomas Shannon, a diplomat for almost 35 years, served as the acting secretary of state for 12 days last year between the inauguration of [Trump] and the confirmation of Rex Tillerson as secretary of state. He now is the undersecretary for political affairs, responsible for the day-to-day management of regional and bilateral policy. … Shannon, who said he will stay on until a replacement is named, leaves behind a hole in the leadership team around Tillerson. A former ExxonMobil executive with no diplomatic experience when he arrived a year ago, Tillerson leaned heavily on Shannon for sensitive missions.”

-- The White House suspects the Pentagon of dragging its feet on providing military strike options against North Korea. The New York Times’s Mark Landler and Helene Cooper report: “The national security adviser, Lt. Gen. H. R. McMaster, believes that for Mr. Trump’s warnings to North Korea to be credible, the United States must have well-developed military plans, according to those officials. But the Pentagon, they say, is worried that the White House is moving too hastily toward military action on the Korean Peninsula that could escalate catastrophically. Giving the president too many options, the officials said, could increase the odds that he will act.”

-- Two Native American tribes accused Ryan Zinke’s Interior Department of illegally holding up their plans to expand casino operations in Connecticut amid lobbying from MGM. Politico’s Nick Juliano reports: “The Interior Department’s refusal to sign off on the tribes’ plans for a third Connecticut casino came after Zinke and other senior department officials held numerous meetings and phone calls with MGM lobbyists and the company’s Republican supporters in Congress, according to a POLITICO review of Zinke’s schedule, lobbying registrations and other documents. The documents don’t indicate whether they discussed the tribes’ casino project. … [T]he department declined to make any decision in [the tribes’] case, an inaction that raises questions about whether an intensive lobbying campaign by one of the gambling industry’s biggest players muscled aside the interests of both the tribes and the state of Connecticut.”

-- Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) refuted Trump’s account that he “never appreciated” the importance of opening up the Alaska National Wildlife Refufe to drilling until he talked to an energy executive. Paul Kane and Erica Werner report: “‘No, no, no, look,’ [Sullivan] said in an interview after Trump’s speech, recalling exactly how he and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R) made their pitch. ‘We had the opportunity to brief the president last year. It was early, like February or March. Over an hour, in the Oval, you know, that’s a lot of time.’ Sullivan said that the senators went into deep detail about the controversial project. ‘It was maps, it was on his desk, Zinke was there. And it was all about Alaska, all about Alaska issues, all about our priorities. And we talked about ANWR,’ he recalled. … ‘He actually knew a fair amount about Alaska,’ Sullivan said[.]”

CONGRESSIONAL GRIDLOCK CONTINUES:

-- The House GOP leadership plans to propose another continuing resolution to fund the government to stave off a second government shutdown on Feb. 8. The measure would be the fifth stopgap spending bill this fiscal year. Erica Werner and Mike DeBonis report: “House GOP leaders are eyeing a spending bill through March 22, aides said, though that date could change. It would have to pass early next week, as government funding is set to expire at the end of next Thursday. … Yet attempts to reach a longer-term deal have faltered amid a larger dispute over immigration and disagreement between the two parties about spending levels, as well as reluctance among some conservatives to sign off on massive new government spending in an election year.”

-- Trump also pitched his immigration proposal at the Republican retreat but even GOP lawmakers remain divided. Mike DeBonis and Sean Sullivan report: “Senate Republican Conference Chairman John Thune (S.D.) told reporters Thursday that a bill addressing DACA recipients and border security alone ‘may be the best we can hope for.’ However, the White House framework goes much further. … House Republican Conference Chairwoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (Wash.), appearing alongside Thune on Thursday, embraced the cornerstones of the Trump plan. Other GOP lawmakers, including Sens. James Lankford (Okla.) and David Perdue (Ga.), voiced clear opposition to the idea of pursuing a more narrowly tailored immigration bill.”

Trump told Republicans that it would be Democrats' fault if a deal is not struck before the DACA program ends: “If Democrats reject the framework, the president said, ‘we’re just not going to approve it. So we’ll either have something that’s fair and equitable and good and secure, or we’re going to have nothing at all.’ … And in an aside certain to needle Democrats, Trump again took aim at the term commonly used to describe immigrants who were brought to the United States as children and remain here illegally. ‘Some people call it “dreamers,” ’ he said, echoing a polarizing line in his State of the Union address Tuesday. ‘It’s not dreamers. Don’t fall into that trap.’”

-- No Obamacare repeal repeat attempts. Politico’s Burgess Everett reports: “Though the GOP still controls both chambers of Congress and maintains the ability to jam through a repeal-and-replace bill via a simple majority, there are no discussions of doing so here at House and Senate Republicans’ joint retreat . . . Republicans doubt they can even pass a budget providing for the powerful party-line ‘reconciliation’ procedure used to pass tax reform last year, much less take on the politically perilous task of rewriting health care laws in an election year. … None of the lawmakers interviewed for this story believe that Congress will pass a budget this year that would allow Republicans to use reconciliation to evade the Senate’s supermajority requirements.”

-- Republicans are highlighting a Pelosi quote on the tax law to paint Democrats as out-of-touch and boost their midterms prospects. Karen Tumulty reports: “[‘Crumbs’] is the scornful description that [Pelosi] used last month, when she summed up the new tax law passed by Republicans as consisting of ‘the bonus that corporate America received, versus the crumbs that they are giving to workers.’ Her comment was already making its way into Republican talking points and ads. … In fact, Pelosi’s comment was taken out of context and did not refer to the overall effects of the new tax law. When she said it at a Jan. 11 news conference, it was as an answer to a reporter’s question about a recent spate of announcements that corporations have made attributing employee bonuses and wage increases to the new law.”

MEN BEHAVING BADLY:

-- Seven board members of the U.S. Humane Society resigned over the organization’s decision to retain CEO Wayne Pacelle following a sexual harassment investigation that turned up three complaints (settlements to three other women were also revealed — they say they were dismissed or demoted after speaking up about Pacelle's alleged behavior). Danielle Paquette reports: “The move to keep Pacelle at the helm and close the investigation defied demands by major donors to cut ties with the longtime chief executive — or risk losing their support. The decision by the Humane Society breaks with a recent pattern of removing leaders accused of sexual misconduct in the workplace.”

-- RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel reportedly teared up at the committee’s winter meeting while recounting former finance chair Steve Wynn’s resignation due to sexual misconduct accusations. CNN’s Rebecca Berg reports: “As committee members met privately Thursday morning, many were still coming to terms with Wynn's departure, and [McDaniel] turned sentimental as she reflected on the episode, according to two people who were in the room. McDaniel started to get emotional and teared up, the sources said, saying Wynn was ‘like family.’ But she also emphasized that the allegations were serious, and that the committee had acted swiftly and decisively. ‘It was a real somber moment,’ one committee member added.”

-- The University of Pennsylvania revoked honorary degrees previously bestowed on Wynn and Bill Cosby. Nick Anderson reports: “Penn’s actions were largely focused on Wynn, an alumnus of the Ivy League school and a former member of its board of trustees. … [Penn’s president and chair of the board of trustees] wrote that the university will remove the name ‘Wynn Commons’ from a centrally located outdoor plaza on the campus in Philadelphia. It also will strike Wynn’s name from a scholarship fund he endowed, although the scholarships will continue to be awarded.”

-- The University of Iowa also wants to remove Wynn’s name from its Institute for Vision Research. The casino mogul made a $25 million commitment to the institute in 2013. (Susan Hogan)

-- PolitiFact abandoned plans to hire former congressman Alan Grayson (D-Fla.) as a reader advocate after the fact-checking site got pushback due to allegations of spousal abuse against Grayson as well as a video showing him getting physical with a reporter. Erik Wemple writes: “[Grayson is] the pol who is showcased jostling with Politico reporter Edward-Isaac Dovere at a 2016 event. Dovere was seeking comment from Grayson regarding allegations from his ex-wife that he had battered her for many years. Video of what happened next shows the two men in a heated exchange as Grayson sought to exit the event. As Dovere presses Grayson with questions, the two bump into each other in clumsy ways, in what an National Football League official would likely rule ‘incidental contact.’ That’s not the way Grayson felt, however. ‘You’re assaulting a member of Congress,’ says Grayson. … The congressman tells Dovere that he’ll be turning over video of the moment to the Capitol Police.”

-- The Arizona House expelled a Republican lawmaker after a report documented his pattern of sexual harassment toward women. The AP reports: “Rep. Don Shooter of Yuma is believed to be the first state lawmaker in the U.S. to be voted out of his seat since the #MeToo movement against sexual misconduct began in the fall. Other legislators nationwide have resigned or been stripped of their leadership posts after being accused of misconduct.”

SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:

Reactions rolled in to Mitt Romney's pre-announcement announcement that he'll run for Senate. From a Fox News producer: 

From an NPR host: 

Snapchat's head of news recirculated this video:

A former CIA director criticized the Republican push to release the memo:

The controversy drew attention back to this 2016 tweet from the White House press secretary:

Nancy Pelosi ramped up calls for Devin Nunes's removal from the House Intelligence Committee:

Two other House Democrats added this:

The 2016 independent presidential candidate and former CIA officer Evan McMullin expressed dismay:

From the Weekly Standard editor:

A former speechwriter for George W. Bush questioned the White House's transparency argument:

From a CNN host:

From a former RNC chairman:

Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-S.C.) defended the memo's contents:

Trump's eldest son pushed back against the FBI and press reactions to releasing the memo:

Hillary Clinton loyalist Philippe Reines went after James Comey, who criticized those attacking the FBI:

The memo also came up at the Republican retreat in West Virginia. From a HuffPost reporter: 

From a writer for The Fix:

The Post's fact-checker refuted Trump's claim:

Trump also chose not to take questions from GOP lawmakers, per The Post's Paul Kane:

An NPR reporter pointed this out about the House Freedom Caucus chairman's gripe with Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.):

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) caught more flak for his State of the Union guest. From a Post reporter:

Trump's false claim that his State of the Union was the most watched in history prompted this correction from Fox News:

From The Post's Philip Bump:

From GOP strategist Ana Navarro:

And an ABC News reporter captured this early morning shot:

GOOD READS FROM ELSEWHERE:

-- Vanity Fair, “‘F---Ing Sith Lord,’ ‘Horrific Leakers,’ and ‘Berserkazoid Craziness’: The Mooch Recalls His Brief Shining Fortnight at the Center of American Politics,” by William D. Cohan: “Scaramucci, the Wall Street hedge-fund impresario and Donald Trump’s perfect foil, is irrepressible. Some six months after his historically short-lived tenure as the White House communications director, he has embarked on something of a rehabilitation tour. He has been defending Trump in Davos, on CNN, and in The Wall Street Journal when few others have, or would. The obvious subtext is that, in these difficult days, the president needs a friend—and the Mooch, as he is known, is the most loyal friend there is. Could Anthony Scaramucci actually talk his way back into the West Wing? In Trumpworld, stranger things have happened.”

-- Politico Magazine, “Is Joe Arpaio the Next Roy Moore?” by Ben Strauss: “What, exactly, is Arpaio is doing in this race? And who—aside from Arpaio himself—wants him in Washington? Some wonder if he’s searching for vindication after his conviction, or if he just needs a way to sate his ego. ‘If someone would just give him a radio show, he never would have run,’ one Arizona Republican operative told me.”

-- The New York Times Magazine, “Where Does the N.F.L. Go After a Season of Division?” by Mark Leibovich: “The N.F.L. loves to emphasize how football brings friends, families and communities together, and to present the game as an oasis clear of the rest of life’s messiness — or ‘distractions,’ as coaches like to call such extraneous passions as politics. ‘We offer fans a respite from the trials and missteps of everyday life,’ Jerry Jones, owner of the Dallas Cowboys, says. That promise would evaporate abruptly in 2017, when the most potent oligarchy in American sports would have its power structure shaken, and arrive at the end of the season wondering: Was 2017 an anomaly or the future?”

HOT ON THE LEFT

“From wary observer to justice warrior: How Heather Heyer’s death gave her mom a voice,” from Ellie Silverman: “[Susan] Bro didn’t ask for the attention she’s getting, and she certainly never thought her voice would carry weight in the national conversation about race, violence and hatred. But reporters came knocking at the door of her trailer home in rural Virginia after a car plowed into [her daughter, Heather] Heyer, 32, as she was protesting a white-supremacist rally in Charlottesville. Bro, a onetime elementary school teacher, decided that August day that she would speak to anyone who would listen about Heyer’s passion for social justice. She didn’t expect what came next.”

 

HOT ON THE RIGHT

“How a dog was ‘approved’ for $360 per week in unemployment benefits,” from Lindsey Bever: “It’s not always easy to find work. Just ask Ryder — he was apparently laid off from his job at a restaurant chain in Michigan. So the state approved him for $360 per week in unemployment benefits. Just one problem: He’s a dog. ‘So my dog Ryder gets approved for unemployment benefits of 360 per week,’ Ryder’s owner, Michael Haddock, wrote on Facebook, according to ABC affiliate WZZM. He added: ‘Not sure what he is going to do with the money but should be interesting. I knew he was clever but he surprised me on this one.’”

 

DAYBOOK:

Trump will meet with North Korean defectors in the morning and later take a tour of the Customs and Border Protection roundtable, where he will also participate in a roundtable. He leaves this evening for Mar-a-Lago.

Reince Priebus will be on Sunday’s “Meet the Press.”

QUOTE OF THE DAY: 

During a speech at the GOP retreat, U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley insisted the Trump White House has been “tougher on Russia than any American administration since Ronald Reagan.” “I have no idea what Russia expected from the American elections, but I gotta tell you, they are not happy with what they ended up with,” Haley added. “And that’s the way it should be, until Russia starts to act like a responsible country.” (Mike DeBonis and Carol Morello)

 

NEWS YOU CAN USE IF YOU LIVE IN D.C.:

-- Wear extra layers: The highs in D.C. will be near freezing today. The Capital Weather Gang forecasts: “Any snow flurries, along with clouds, should decrease quickly. Temperatures fight to stay around freezing (32 degrees) early in the day but gusty northwesterly winds between 20-30 mph — coupled with an ever-lowering sun by late day — should try to beat down temperatures even before the sun starts to dip. Please bundle the heck up, with wind chills in familiar TEENS territory, unfortunately.”

-- The Wizards beat the Raptors 122-119. (Candace Buckner)

-- Questions are being raised about Chelsea Manning’s ability to run for Senate in Maryland. Jenna Portnoy reports: “In 2013, Manning was sentenced to 35 years in prison and received a dishonorable discharge from the Army for passing government secrets to WikiLeaks in violation of the Espionage Act. While her case is on appeal, she is on a technical form of unpaid active duty, putting her political campaign at odds with Defense Department regulations that prohibit military personnel from seeking public office. … Experts said the Army would have little to gain by pursuing action against Manning for her decision to enter politics.”

-- Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) will undergo a procedure for a common form of skin cancer. The governor said the skin cancer was unrelated to his non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, from which he is still in remission. (Ovetta Wiggins)

-- A Post analysis of Metro radio communications before the Red Line derailment last month found more than a dozen examples of workers struggling to communicate via radio. The response to the derailment was similarly slowed by poor radio communication. (Jack Gillum, Faiz Siddiqui and Martine Powers)

VIDEOS OF THE DAY:

Jimmy Kimmel went after Devin Nunes:

The top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee questioned Paul Ryan on the memo:

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has no plans to retire:

Former secretary of state Condoleezza Rice will premiere a PBS documentary later this month on “freedom, equality and opportunity in today's society”:

The Because of Them, We Can campaign put together this video for the start of Black History Month:

And Trump highlighted the first lady's role in this 2005 AFLAC commercial while meeting with executives for the insurance company in the Oval Office: